Friday, September 30, 2022

The One With All The Cheesecakes

I don't know if you've really lived until you've stood eating a bratwurst at a German Fall Fest while an enthusiastic cover band takes a shot at "Islands in the Stream".

Especially once the mime in the crowd starts dancing.

Greetings again from seven floors above Leipzig, where much of our day once again involved food, and what didn't involve food once again involved riding on trams.  It began with a visit to Leipzig's Market Day-

Where a certain bakery stall caught Loraine's eye.  If you know her at all, or just, you know, like to eat, you might understand why--

She bought a couple pieces of cake, while I bought what I thought was a slice of Quarktorte.  However, as it turns out, I actually bought a quarter of an entire Quarktorte-

That's what I get for not really understanding German, I guess.  Anyway, Loraine and I brought the (seriously) two pounds of Torte back to our hotel room, where we decided that, even though we had just eaten breakfast, we should really try to eat the Torte, if only because it should be refrigerated lest it go bad.  So, much like Rachel and Chandler and the cheesecakes in one of my favorite episodes of "Friends", we started eating the Torte.  And kept eating.  

And kept eating, and kept eating until we finally reached this state-

At which point we looked at each other, too exhausted to even attempt a high-five.  But we finished it.  And we didn't even have to eat the last few crumbs of it off the floor.

(If you've ever watched that particular "Friends" episode that last line actually makes sense).

Following our consumption of 23 and a half million calories we decided a little exercise was warranted, so we hopped aboard a tram and headed over to the Fockeberg.  The Fockeberg is an interesting place, a 153 meter (450 foot) high mountain stuck right in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  What makes it interesting is that the Fockeberg is man-made.  It's a mountain built out of all the rubble removed from the city after it was repeatedly bombed in World War II.  In fact, everywhere you walk going up the mountain you see things like this--

It is, however, an easy hike, much like Sugarloaf, and when you get to the top you're rewarded with views like these--

So, 200 calories down, 23,499,800 to go.

Since we (obviously) didn't need to eat lunch we hopped back on a tram and headed to a couple of cemeteries around here.  The Sudfriedhof is a rather woodsy place-

While the Ostfriedhof is a little more conventional-

We've visited a lot of cemeteries during our trips over here, but I saw something today that made me think in a way I've not quite thought before.  In the Sudfriedhof we came across this marker-

Sure, it was nice that Irmgard Rodel lived to be almost 100.  But that's not what made me think.  What made me think is the history of this particular place, and how Irmgard was born during World War I, came of age during the rise of Hitler, survived World War II, lived through the entirety of Communism and the old East Germany, saw the Wall fall and reunification occur, and became a member of the democratic and multi-national European Union, all in one lifetime.

Many of us think we live interesting lives.  Irmgard lived through history.  Actual interesting, incredible, amazing history.

And that brings us to the dancing mime.  When we got back from our tram journeys we ventured over to the Market Square (or Markt in German) where the Fall Fest is going on-

It's actually Oktoberfest without having to go to Munich, and we celebrated the fact that we had only had probably 23,499,200 calories left to burn off after the Quarktorte by eating again.  Seeing as how we were at Oktoberfest Fall Fest Loraine grabbed a couple of these things--

And we checked out this band rocking Oktoberfest Fall Fest--

They did fairly commendable versions of Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" and Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street", but once they lit into "Islands in the Stream" the crowd got moving.  And when I say moving I do mean moving, as revelers whistled their approval, couples got to their feet, and a mime (yes, a mime) that had been working the crowd stopped miming and started to wave his arms in the air like it was actually Dolly Parton singing up there, and not some 60-year old German guy who couldn't say the line "that is what we are" without letting the crowd know that he probably didn't speak a lick of English in real life.

But you know what?  It really didn't matter.  It was all part of a moment that'll never happen again because, and let's be real here, how often do you get the chance to see a German mime dancing to a Dolly Parton song?

You just enjoy it while it comes.

Tomorrow, the reason we came to Leipzig.  It's Match Day!


Thursday, September 29, 2022

202 Steps

Today's adventures were mostly about music.  And food.  And riding on a train.  And food.

Greetings once again from Leipzig, although from a different hotel than last night.  As I wrote for work last week we always stay at a Motel One when we're in Germany.  The one we usually stay at in Leipzig, the one from which I'm writing this tonight, was booked last night, so we had to stay at another Motel One and then make the transfer to our current one this morning.  It was probably the easiest hotel transfer on record, too, as the Motel One we stayed at last night is right across a church courtyard from the one we're at tonight.

It's just 202 steps away, in fact.  And no, I'm not quite sure why there are two Motel Ones within 202 steps of each other.  I'm just glad, for the ease of the move this morning, that they are.

We had one big outing today, as well as a bunch of little ones.  The little ones consisted mostly of going back to the grocery stores we scouted out yesterday to purchase the chocolate you all knew we were going to buy.  And buy we did, while at the same time noticing something else--seasonal creep isn't just an American phenomena--

In fact, there are all kinds of holiday items already available in stores here.  One of the weirdest might be (tangentally) related to something I wrote about yesterday.  You know how I couldn't find a cow calendar?  Well, there are plenty of a certain other kind of calendar available, and that being the advent calendar.  They are quite big over here, so much so that you can get any kind of advent calendar that you want, except, alas, a cow advent calendar.  Lest you think I'm bluffing, let me introduce you to the murder mystery advent calendar--

I'm not 100% certain how an advent murder mystery calendar works, although I'm guessing you might receive a clue a day instead of eating a chocolate a day.  At least I'm hoping that's how it works, as I shudder to think that getting a murder a day for 28 days might be a little too much.

After getting the chocolate we need (at least for today) we hopped on a tram (because they have a great tram system in Leipzig, and we bought a seven day pass) and visited the neighborhood of Plagwitz.  If Leipzig is sometimes called "Hypezig", neighborhoods like Plagwitz may be the reason why.  It's that one neighborhood every city seems to have, filled with art, even on the buildings--

Interesting stores-

Interesting places to eat-

Interesting ways to party the night away-

And, well, ads at the tram stop for your local, uhm, S&M  club-

Remember, kids.  Always practice safe tram stop ad viewing.


And now for something completely different.  When we were here in 2019 we noticed a young Leipzig University student making a little money the way many students do around here, by busking on the street.  However, what made this young man stand out out was that he was busking while playing the marimba-

Flash forward three and a half years, and who did we happen to see still busking?  Why, it would be Marimba Man-

Actually, his name is Martin Rihards.  How do I know?  Well, because we bought his CD-

After all, how often do you have the chance to buy a CD from a marimba-playing street busker who you saw three and a half years after first seeing him?  And while we haven't had the chance to listen to it yet, I'm sure I'll be quite intrigued by his marimba-filled take on Tones & I's "Dance Monkey".

In fact, I think it's safe to say that it might be the most unique piece of music I might hear all year.

Finally, Loraine and I had our annual Italian dinner date tonight.  This is a tradition that we started the first time we came over here, and tonight saw Loraine drinking strawberry-rhubarb lemonade-

And me getting to sample gnocchi with zucchini and shrimp in a walnut cream sauce-

Tomorrow we're thinking of hopping aboard the tram again, this time to possibly visit the second highest point in Leipzig--a mountain built atop the trash & wreckage left by World War II.

That's something you don't get to see in too many places.


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Ice Ice Baby

 We made it.  It wasn't the most perfect example of cross-Atlantic travel, but we made it.

Greetings from Leipzig where, after 48 hours in airplanes, airports, trains, subways, security screenings, and that special eighth circle of hell known as Heathrow Airport, we are finally in the city we'd visited three and a half years ago and had hoped to return to in April of 2020.

You know what happened in April of 2020, right?

Anyway, we finally got into Germany at 9 o'clock last night after spending nine hours stuck at Heathrow because our original flight to Berlin was one of over 10,000 British Airways canceled a few months ago because--and I'm not joking here--the airport was so overtaxed this summer and workers lost so much luggage that one American airline actually had to fly a plane back to the US with nothing BUT lost luggage in it.

Don't believe me?

Thankfully, our luggage wasn't lost, and just a mere 90 minutes behind schedule we arrived in Berlin last night, slept a few hours, and then hopped on an ICE train, one of the wonders of Modern Germany-

Where, just over an hour later, we ended up an 150 miles away in Leipzig, home to one of the most unique looking universities on the planet-

Leipzig is one of the coolest places in this country, offering Ukrainian refuges a place to stay

And Loraine a visit to her holy place, the RB Leipzig fan shop--

Believe it or not, we didn't buy too much there, although we did stock up on everything we may need for the match we're attending on Saturday.  But more on that later.

While Leipzig is a great place, today wasn't the best weather day we've had here (I mean, it was 50 and occasionally raining) but we made do by visiting some of our favorite stores in search of chocolate, yummy goodies, and even more chocolate.  However, I would like to speak with Leipzig's manager, because one of the things I had looked forward to purchasing here was a 2023 cow calendar.  Every time we've come to Europe I've tried to find a calendar featuring those animals I (for some strange reason) so like, but you know what?  We visited five bookstores (like I said, it's a university city, so there are a LOT of bookstores) but you know what I couldn't find?

A cow calendar

Oh, you could find cat calendars, dog calendars, horse calendars, squirrel calendars, wolf calendars, penguin calendars, koala calendars, kangaroo calendars, and even pig calendars.  In fact, one bookstore had a shelf full of nothing but animal calendars--

But a cow calendar?  Nope.  Zip.  Zilch. Nada.  There were plenty of castle calendars, lots of calendars with beauty shots of Leipzig, and even a couple of calendars with topless women and train cars (which, apparently, is a thing around here).  But one single calendar with cows?

Leipzig.  You disappointed me.


We did, however, find a beer that we had been searching for since the Before Times, a cherry flavored version of an adult beverage Loraine likes-

And even I, an admittedly non-avid beer drinker, enjoyed it, especially with the Indian food we got from our favorite takeout place just down the street.

So in that respect, today was a good day.

A few random thoughts, observations, and pictures--

If you think gas prices are still a little high, take a look at this sign-

Now please don't think to yourself "that's not too bad", because those are prices in liters.  There are approximately four liters to a gallon.  And with the dollar and the Euro about the same in value, that means that Germans pay about eight dollars a gallon for gas.

See?  $3.84 doesn't seem so high in comparison, does it?

However, while gas prices are bad here, food prices (which have hit the US hard) really aren't too bad over here.  Most things we picked up today were around the same price as they were in 2019; in fact, we got all this for seven Euro--

And just as a side comment (and a joke, mom) that's not a bad breakfast, is it?

Two more pictures, first of all a dork on a train-

And the other a totally gratuitous shot of the Spree River running near our hotel in Berlin.

That's all for today.  Tomorrow I buy a phone and we hop aboard a tram for a while.

( (finishing this by listening to someone down on street level singing "Free Falling" and, actually, singing it quite well)

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Back in the Saddle Again

To paraphrase a great British we go again.

For the first time since the Before Times (early 2019, to be exact) we're gonna try and take a trip.  When Covid struck in 2020 we actually had two trips planned; one that May to Leipzig for a soccer match, and another that August so we could go and visit Normandy for the first time since 2016.  Needless to say, both of those were kiboshed, and we've spent the past three and a half years wondering if we would ever be able to travel again.

So we'll see how it all turns out.

We'll be trying a rerun this time around, going back to Leipzig, Germany on a (fairly) quick jaunt for a soccer match.  That's what we did last time around, and that's what we were planning on doing again when Covid struck.  That means no driving, no rental cars, and staying in (basically) one place the entire time we're gone.  We're trying to make things as simple as possible and trying to avoid any unnecessary complications.

Note, though, that I said "trying".  The world in general and the world of travel in particular has changed quite a bit in the past three and a half years, and we're under no illusion that this will be a piece of cake.  We've already had several of our flights canceled or changed, which has resulted in, among other things, the need for us to spent nine hours waiting at Heathrow in London just to get to Berlin.  So if things go south (or west, or north, or even east) we won't be surprised.

We'll be disappointed, but we won't be surprised.

Whether or not we make it to Leipzig or whether or not we're stuck in some airport for nine days, we're gonna try this and see how it works out.  We're cautiously optimistic but highly realistic.  Either way, you're more than welcome to come along virtually and see what happens.

Just, if you could, keep your fingers crossed that things DO work out.  We'd appreciate it.